When I first watched this movie, I had no idea it was based on a YA series of books by Cassandra Clare. Therefore I was able to weigh its merits objectively instead of comparing it to the original story. This wasn’t a bad thing, because we all know books turned into screenplays often suffer in transition and once I’d read the books (which are VERY good), I found this one wasn’t just in a little pain, it was in agony. They got many, many things wrong, but the big one is the movie gives away a major plot twist that isn’t resolved until the fourth book. Who does that?! It would be like having someone tell you a critical piece of information about Bruce Willis’ character at the beginning of The Sixth Sense. Or worse, knowing who Keyser Söze is at the beginning of The Usual Suspects. (See how I carefully chose my words so as not to actually make them spoilers in case you, as the reader, haven’t seen those movies yet? You’re welcome. But seriously? You need to watch both those movies immediately.) All that aside, the film was interesting enough to get me to read the books, which is always a good thing.
The story is an inventive spin on the genre of paranormal young adult fiction, starring a half-human, half-angel race of ‘Shadowhunters’, whose sole purpose is to protect humanity by policing the supernatural world and slaying demons. Clary (Lily Collins) is a normal girl living with her mother (Lena Headey) in New York when she starts to see strange things that other people evidently can’t. People who are invisible to others, signs and symbols no one else can see, and even a violent murder at a club where she is the only witness in a crowded room. And thus the supernatural world takes an interest in Clary, drawing her into a realm of vampires, fairies, werewolves, demons, angels and magic. By way of explanation, the Shadowhunters say “All the stories are true.”
It’s the classic good vs. evil paradigm, but with enough ambiguity all around to make it interesting. In the books, the characters are well drawn and the dialogue is witty, even often darkly funny. Not so much in the movie, but there are excellent visual effects, gorgeous sets and some well-crafted scares. Judged solely on its own, this gothic romantic thriller is just plain cool. True, it was a little confusing and unclear about certain plot elements (such as Clary’s mysterious power with runes), but once I read the books, it all made much more sense. Casting Jamie Campbell Bower as gorgeous golden boy Jace Weyland was perhaps not the best choice, but that is just my personal aesthetic opinion. This was a decent introduction to the book series and I’ll be interested to see if they make more of them into movies. – BETHANY
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Clary’s best friend Simon (Robert Sheehan). Being classified as a mundane has to be kind of insulting.
Clary and downstairs neighbor Dorothea (CCH Pounder).
Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Valentine Morgenstern. It might just be worth watching this movie just to see him in his tight leather ensemble.
Warlock Magnus Bane (Godfrey Gao), whose loyalties are a mystery but who definitely throws a great party.
Isabelle helps Clary get ready for a party at Magnus Bane’s in order for Clary to ask him for help. “If you go looking like your mundane self we won’t get within 100 feet of Magnus Bane. He’s the High Warlock of Brooklyn.”
Clary getting a tour of the Institute, guided by Hodge (Jared Harris), stop at the statue of the Angel Raziel, whom legend says created the Shadowhunters.
Photos courtesy of, Constantin Film Produktion, Unique Features, Mr. Smith Productions, Don Carmody Productions and Screen Gems (unless otherwise credited in clickable form)